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Patriots at Bills: 4 bold predictions for NFL Playoff game

Andrew Buller-Russ

The New England Patriots will kick off against the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Wild Card Playoffs at 8:15 PM ET on Saturday in what will be an epic continuation of their divisional rivalry.

Buffalo wrapped up the AFC East by going 11-6, by crushing their AFC East opponents 5-1 in head-to-head matchups. The Patriots started 1-3, but rookie quarterback Mac Jones was able to navigate the storm on the way to a 10-7 record, good enough to clinch a playoff spot.

New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills game information, point spread and more

DateTime (ET)TV
Saturday, January 158:15 PMCBS, Paramount+
  • Patriots at Bills point spread: Bills -4
  • Over/under: 44.5
  • Moneyline: Patriots +170; Bills -200

Down below we offer four bold predictions for this old-school AFC Wild Card matchup between the Patriots and Bills at Highmark Stadium this weekend.

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Mac Jones finishes with fewer than 100 passing yards

patriots at bills
Mandatory Credit: Rhona Wise-USA TODAY Sports

The last time Mac Jones played in Buffalo, the weather was miserable, presenting wind gusts up to 40 MPH. It led to him attempting just three passes. While the forecast doesn’t look nearly as bad for Saturday night, it’s still going to be cold, and it could even snow. These conditions are not ideal for Jones or any other QB without a cannon for an arm.

The Patriots resorted to an all-out rushing attack, handing the ball off 46 times, compared to three drop backs. We don’t expect quite the same drastic split in their play-calling tendencies, but we also don’t anticipate Jones to suddenly be let loose either. Especially against the top-ranked passing defense, allowing an average of just 163 passing yards per game.

Although the Bills don’t have Tre’Davious White after tearing his ACL, they still have the dynamic duo of Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde, two defenders who have five interceptions apiece. Belichick likely won’t tempt them too much, preferring to keep the ball on the ground instead of sailing through the air.

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Stefon Diggs racks up 150+ yards

patriots at bills
Credit: Jamie Germano / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Patriots have the second-best passing defense in the NFL, just behind the Bills. They allowed only three receivers to top 100 yards this past season, and none of them were elite players aside from CeeDee Lamb. Stefon Diggs will change that on Saturday.

Although he himself only has two games over 100 and one game with 162 yards during the 2021-22 season, Diggs will go off against the Patriots in his third matchup with them this season. Buffalo struggles to run the ball and if they experience any of the early concerns we saw in their Week 13 Patriots-Bills dual, they will opt to air it out.

Allen has several receivers he can spread the ball around too, but Diggs is his most trustworthy option. All it takes is one blown assignment or a defender slipping on the turf, and Diggs can run free for a big gain. We expect Diggs to show up when the games count, as he did for the Minneapolis Miracle when he was with the Vikings.

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J.C. Jackson gets two interceptions

patriots at bills
Credit: George Walker IV / USA TODAY NETWORK

If it weren’t for Trevon Diggs having a phenomenal season, J.C. Jackson would have led the NFL in interceptions with eight. It’s not an anomaly either, after picking off nine passes a year ago. Jackson even has two games this season with two interceptions, coming against the Jets and the Panthers.

Josh Allen averaged 38 passing attempts per game this year. In the two games against the Patriots, he had 30 and 47 attempts. Keep in mind, the first game only had a total of 33 passing attempts combined from both teams as they looked for another way to matriculate the ball down the field in another way in a freezing atmosphere.

The Bills won’t have much of a choice but to attack the Patriots’ strengths if they want to compile big plays in an effort to force the Patriots into passing situations. This could even lead to some early, aggressive throws from Allen. All it takes is a bad bounce or tipped ball for it to end up in Jackson’s hands. As one of the best in the business, look for the Pro Bowl corner to have a big day, hauling in two interceptions on Saturday.

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Buffalo Bills D holds Patriots to fewer than 300 yards

patriots at bills
Credit: JAMIE GERMANO/ROCHESTER DEMOCRAT AND CHRONICLE / USA TODAY NETWORK

This prediction may sound bolder than it actually is. The Patriots didn’t get to 300 offensive yards in either of their earlier matchups this season. In fact, the Bills only allowed five opponents over 300 in their 17 matchups so far.

But the Patriots are familiar with topping that number, having done so in 12 of their games this year. They’ve only won three times when they don’t get to 300 or more yards. It’s an important threshold, but unless they can land on some gamebreaking plays this week, it’s a tough expectation against the top-ranked defense in the NFL.

Patriots at Bills final score prediction: Bills 24, Patriots 16

Even without knowing for sure just how brutal the weather conditions will be in Buffalo, these defenses are the best two in football. They know each other well, with Sean McDermott facing Bill Belichick 10 times in his NFL head coaching career thus far.

This Patriots at Bills matchup likely won’t come close to being the highest-scoring battle of the weekend, in fact, it’s more likely to be the lowest-scoring dual of Super Wild Card weekend.

Still, expect the veteran leadership of Josh Allen and Co. to outperform the Mac Jones in the first playoff game of his young career.

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